My heart is heavy as I write this letter. Deep down I wish I could write a different letter where I express my love and gratitude. Now that I’m a mother myself, I long for the kind of relationship where we talk on the phone every day and compare notes about marriage and motherhood. But as the adult daughter of alcoholic parents I’ve developed a coping mechanism where I detach from a person when I feel hurt. It’s hard for me to say I miss you. I miss the you before the alcoholism moved in and forced everyone you loved out. I miss your infectious laugh. The one where you’d cover your mouth to try to control it but it only made you laugh harder until there were tears in your eyes and your cheeks turned pink. I can’t even remember the last time I heard you laugh like that.
You weren’t always so broken.
You were once a fighter, a force to be reckoned with. A woman who always said what she thought. I thought you were the smartest person in the world. You had an innate ability to always be on time. If you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late. I’m not sure why I never picked up that trait. And you were tough as nails. You had to be with three kids. I bet people thought you were crazy. But you found Dad. A real partner who would bend over backwards for you. Whose contribution to the household matched perfectly with yours. Who can see past the alcoholic and truly believe that the old you is still in there somewhere. I wish I could see what he sees.
I know you think I’m mean and that you’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve attended enough Al-Anon meetings to know that I’m not the monster you say I am. I never thought I’d have to raise my kids without you. You held my hand as I brought both my babies into this world. You cheered me on and cried with me as we witnessed their first breaths together. Never in a million years did I think my kids wouldn’t have their grandparents there for every special moment after. I’ve come a long way from the struggling teen mom I was 11 years ago.
I wish you would tell me you’re proud of the woman and mother I am today.
Every time I talk about losing you I have to fight back tears. It’s a different kind of loss, because physically you’re still here. You’re just a shell of who you once were. Every time you made an effort to get sober, I was your cheerleader. I realize now that my love and support isn’t enough to make you want to be sober but it doesn’t change the fact that I wish it was. So in order to cope, I choose to believe that you’re gone. Some days I find acceptance as it wraps me up in a warm hug. Some days I am furious and resentful that the person I need most chose alcoholism over me.
Today I am sad, knowing that alcoholism is a disease.
At least that’s how I choose to perceive it. I know that if the person you were could see the person you’ve become, an alcoholic, you wouldn’t even believe it. It would be unfair of me not to acknowledge the fact that you were there for me through some incredibly emotional times. You literally held me up when my legs gave out after you had to tell me that my father passed away. I could never say you haven’t been my rock. It hasn’t been an easy decision to walk away.
I know that you have everyone convinced that I cut you off and that I keep your grandchildren from you. I realize that I can’t convince anyone to see things my way. The choices I make for my children are solely for their benefit, and not out of spite. I wish you could see the difference. I can’t imagine that you’d want them to know the hollow, alcoholic version of yourself. The shell of a woman whose nickname used to be Giggles. You are not you anymore, and that is why I don’t miss you. I have to protect my feelings from you, so it’s hard for me to even say that I love you.
So I love you from a safe distance. I hope one day your grandchildren might be able to see their Grammie as the remarkable woman she once was. Mostly, I hope that one day you’ll find peace.